Prolific Chicago architect Helmut Jahn dies at 81

Jahn left mark on Chicago’s skyline

Chicago /
May.May 10, 2021 12:00 PM
Helmut Jahn (Getty)

Helmut Jahn (Getty)

Helmut Jahn, a world-renowned architect who designed some of Chicago’s most notable buildings, died Saturday from injuries suffered in a cycling accident in the suburb of Campton Hills, the Chicago Tribune reported. He was 81.

The prolific architect designed many iconic — and sometimes controversial — structures in the Chicagoland area, including Accenture Tower in the West Loop, the 23-story addition to the Chicago Board of Trade and United Airlines Terminal 1 at O’Hare International Airport. His postmodern James R. Thompson Center, which opened in 1985, was recently put forward for redevelopment by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.

Jahn was born in Nuremberg, Germany, and moved to Chicago in 1966 to study at the Illinois Institute of Technology under the famed International Style architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, according to the Chicago Architecture Center. Early in his career, which began at the firm CF Murphy Associates, he was instrumental in the design of the McCormick Place convention center.

“Jahn was one of the most inventive Chicago architects whose impact on the city — from the skyline to the O’Hare tunnel — will never be forgotten,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted Sunday. “His architectural footprint will be felt & seen across the globe for generations to come.”

Jahn’s reach extended across the globe: He also designed the Messeturm in Frankfurt, Germany, and the 41-story Post Tower in Bonn, Germany. In 2000, the architect completed the Sony Center, an eight-building complex in Berlin.

Reed Kroloff, dean of the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, told Tribune that Jahn had an “exceptional career both for its length and for the consistent quality of the work.”

“At his height, he was one of the most influential architects in the world. Not only formally, but technically,” he said. “He engaged early on with building-skin technologies that were very advanced. He created buildings of every variety.”

[Chicago Tribune] — Akiko Matsuda





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